Glaciologists estimate that the Canadian Rockies will have no glaciers remaining by 2050. That’s shocking for a landscape that was carved out by massive iceflows and is one of the world’s premier places to enjoy and explore alpine terrain. It also means big changes for the millions of people living downstream of the rivers fed by these glaciers. It’s hard to imagine how these cities will function and survive with only seasonal water flow.
That’s a bit of a round-about way to introduce an article about a course on alpine climbing, hosted by the guiding company Yamnuska, that I took part in during the latter half of August. Alpine Climbing is all about accessing these kinds of wild landscapes in as safe a way as possible. It’s a combination of mountaineering, rock climbing, ice climbing, and efficient movement over rugged terrain. My motivation for signing up with Yam for this course was to experience this alpine world for myself and to gain the skills to become a more autonomous climber.
I attended my second Alpine Club of Canada General Mountaineering Camp last week. I loved my first time at the camp last year (despite snow and howling winds in July!) so I was excited to return again this year. I’m amazed at how the camp organizers manage to find such fantastic locations. This year our camp sat atop a small plateau, surrounded by tumbling glaciers and crashing waterfalls in the Purcell Mountains just north of Radium Hotsprings in BC.
The weather started off much as it did last year. Light rain turned into a downpour as we waited for the helicopter to arrive and fog threatened to close in. Very ominous. Fortunately, the flights got through without any trouble, taking us the long way around to avoid having to go up and over the glaciers in such weather. In camp the rain turned to hail, then snow. Continue reading “Climbing in BC’s Purcell Mountains”→
In a few days I’m heading to an annual event hosted by the Alpine Club of Canada. I first attended the General Mountaineering Camp (GMC) last year and I’ve been excited to return since.
Each year the ACC chooses a different location for the camp but it’s always spectacular, especially when you arrive by a thrilling alpine helicopter ride. We started the adventure on a foggy day and the helicopter got grounded in camp before it could make its return to pick up all the guests waiting down at the road. This just built the anticipation and excitement. When we finally made it to camp, flying low over rushing streams and cascading waterfalls, I could hardly wait. There were no trails into this pristine alpine area and getting there on foot would be exceptionally difficult, especially with a week’s worth of food and all our climbing gear. That’s one of the luxuries of the GMC. Continue reading “Alpine Club of Canada Mountaineering Camp”→
On a trip out to BC this week we had the opportunity to make a brief stop at Top of the World Provincial Park. (Thanks for the recommendation, Auntie Lin and Uncle Bruce!)
Just a short distance from the towns of Radium and Kimberley, I must have driven past Top of the World many times. About an hour’s drive further on gravel roads brings you to the park entrance. It’s an easy walk (or mountain bike ride) to Fish Lake where you’ll find a well-maintained cabin and campground popular with families. Just a little further up a steep trail is Sparkle Lake. When the sun hits the lake, it really does sparkle. We had exciting weather – a mix of rain, hail, mist, and brilliant sun. Continue reading “Top of the World”→
When I decided to hike Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail again this year, I had no idea it would be the driest summer since 2003. The WCT is known for torrential rain and mud bogs so deep you sink in past your knees. Those are the kind of conditions I encountered when I first hiked the trail in May 2013. This year the conditions couldn’t be more different. Seven days of perfectly dry weather, bright sunny skies, and barely enough mud to dirty your pant legs. We had short hiking days with lots of time to swim in the warm creeks and relax around campfires in the evening.
Day 1 – Gordon River to Thrasher Bay (south to north)
6 km, 2 hours
Just before starting the WCT we also hiked the Juan de Fuca trail. The unusually dry conditions made the risk of a forest fire exceptionally high, so there was a fire ban in place. When we arrived at the WCT information center we were excited to learn that the ban excluded the entire WCT. We couldn’t have been happier. Now, if only we’d brought something tasty to cook over the fire. Continue reading “Drought and Forest Fires on the West Coast Trail”→
Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail is one of Canada’s most popular hikes, and deservedly so. It passes along sandy beaches, stunning waterfalls, towering forests, sandstone sea caves, cliffs and tidal pools. You can see bald eagles, sea lions, seals and maybe even the odd black bear. I hiked the WCT two years ago over four rainy days in May. This year I wanted to come back and take a more leisurely pace, really soaking in the scenery, but also making it a bigger and longer hike by combining it with the Juan de Fuca trail. Together, the WCT and Juan de Fuca make a rugged 150-km coastal route.
There’s nothing quite like a road trip. You get to see so much more than when you travel by plane, or at least you see it at a much more relaxed pace. If that’s true, then a rock-climbing road trip must be one of the best kinds of road trips. You stop in a few select beautiful spots for a few days, you explore the broad landscape looking for shapes and contours that appeal to you, then you zoom right in on the smallest of details. Ah, that’s it, you exclaim! A tiny ridge of textured rock that you’d missed before. Now that you see it – now that you feel it – you’re able to get over the crux of the route you’ve been working your way up (and continually falling off) for the last half hour. Continue reading “Rock Climbing Road Trip”→
The Bowron Lakes Circuit is considered one of the best canoe trips in the world. Located in central BC, the circuit links 16 km of smooth portage trails with over 100 km of stunning lakes and wild rivers. The scenery ranges from calmly gliding through marshes to crossing big mountain-studded lakes to raging whitewater. Four of us, two in a canoe and two in kayaks, enjoyed a week paddling the circuit at the peak of summer and couldn’t have had better luck with beautiful weather and calm water.
Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail is a 75 km-long rugged coastal route through mud bogs, over slippery boulders, under huge fallen trees, up 70 ladders, across 130 bridges, and zipping over rivers inside 4 cable cars. I hiked the trail in May, when it’s especially wet and muddy.
Day 1 (May 29, 2013) Bamfield (Pachena Bay ranger station) to Tsocowis Creek Campground
Distance walked: 16 km
Wildlife seen: ravens, 2 black bears, hundreds of smelly seals
Hikers encountered (going opposite way as me): 7 (of these, 5 had just finished the trail)
Hikers encountered (going same way as me): 4
Lunch: fresh avocados with pork jerky, cashews, and chocolate
I wake up at 5:15am in my 6×10 foot hostel room. It’s a private room, but in a solitary-confinement sense. I eat half a dozen bananas then I’m out the door. It’s raining. Hard. I hide under the umbrella I plan to use on the trail. This 15 minute walk to the bus station is the only time I’ll use it for the entire trek, save 5 minutes under a big tree with pounding rain smashing through the upper leaves.
Charles and I headed up to Squamish for some hiking and mountain biking. We picked up Jo’s two hyper border collies for a steep walk up Squamish’s most famous landmark, The Chief.
The Chief is a rock climbers’ mecca and one of Canada’s top climbing destinations. We followed a trail that meanders up the much more gradual backside through lush old growth forest.
We scrambled over big moss-covered tree roots and slippery pboulders. While the weather was clear, everything was wet. Water streamed down the path and the dogs splashed through mucky puddles.
After some good steep climbing the trail leveled out and suddenly we had panoramic views of the ocean glittering below and even bigger mountains all around.
The Chief has three peaks. We ascended the third then traversed back to the second. As soon as we got to the edge we realized why this is such a hot spot for climbers. The cliff face plummets straight down all the way to the ground thousands of feet below.
Descending from the second peak toward the first we got to a long slippery ladder. Dusty nervously let me carry him down but Ruby didn’t want any part of it. She backed off in a hurry. A little funny seeing as she was walking along the edge of the abyss completely unperturbed just a few minutes before. So I headed down with Dusty while Charles backtracked with Ruby. At the intersection of the two trails we stopped to wait. Even though it had been a pretty full hike Dusty couldn’t help but grab a stick and start a game of fetch. When Ruby caught up all kinds of sticks went flying. You were playing fetch without me?!?